The Birth Zone Founder, Certified Childbirth Educator, Certified Labor Doula
“Yes, I’m due this Saturday” she responded. I’m not sure what answer I was expecting, but that sure wasn’t it.
I was twenty years old and renting a room in a four-bedroom apartment that was owned by the elderly lady downstairs. None of us girls knew each other, but three of us started to wonder if our mysteriously quiet roommate was perhaps expecting a baby. We couldn’t help but notice her growing belly. She was shy, and felt insecure about her English as she was a recent immigrant. She didn’t talk to us very much.
Then one day coming home from work I saw a large box in the entry-way of our building. I read the label, hoping it was a surprise of some kind for me. Trying to figure out what I was looking at I eventually noticed a customs label listing the contents of the package: baby clothes, baby bottles, baby bibs… baby, baby, baby. That did it, someone had to ask her what was going on. I was the youngest, ballsiest, and most naive of the crew, so I had the honor of asking the delicate question. “Are you pregnant?” Turns out: yes… she was very, very pregnant indeed. I asked if she needed or wanted any support. She gladly accepted. I didn’t know much about birth, but I figured I could be her friend during this time if that’s what she wanted. I held her hand while she told our other roommates, and our landlord. To everyone’s credit: they rolled with it.
She had nothing for the baby, save that one box of clothing from overseas. My co-workers pitched in once they heard the story, and within days I was bringing home a crib, a car seat, a bouncy seat, and everything else our tiny apartment needed to welcome our newest roomie.
Over the next few weeks I accompanied her to prenatal appointments and my mom and I threw her a very tiny baby shower. We watched the 80s movie “Three Men and a Baby,” which felt appropriate given our living situation. She asked me to accompany her to the hospital when she was in labor, and I stayed by her side for all 30 hours, until she was finally wheeled into a c-section.
I remember going back home to our tiny Chicago apartment in the wee morning hours. I was more exhausted than I even knew possible, but suddenly I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Before I went to bed I sat down at my Gateway laptop (remember those – with the cow boxes?) in our front sun room and searched for the term “professional labor coach.” That was the first time I learned the word “doula.”
That was nineteen years ago. I didn’t immediately become a doula, but it was the start of the journey for me. Eventually I went on to give birth to my two children, foster many more, and adopt four children. I became a certified birthing educator, and ultimately a childbirth doula. In the end, I lost touch with that roommate when we moved out and on with our separate lives, but she and her child will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Sometimes I get questions from new moms who are interested in becoming a doula. They are in love with the birth world, but wondering how to balance this work with their family’s needs. Doula work is incredibly demanding. The on-call life isn’t for everyone. Or every life stage. I waited over fifteen years to circle back to this passion. As the saying goes: you can have it all, but you can’t always have it all at the same time. Love the stage of life that you’re in, and when the time is right you’ll know it.
Do you love birth? Heck yeah you do!
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